This year, Canada Day is complicated

Artwork by Nigel Fox









Canada Day is generally a time for Canadians to enjoy some good weather, a day off, and maybe a fireworks display.

If we’re being honest, most Canadians don’t spend July 1st thinking about our history in any deep way.

We might celebrate our wilderness, our health care system, and some of our more endearing symbols like the beaver or the moose.

But this Canada Day falls days after the grim discovery of a grave site of 761 children at a Saskatchewan residential school, and only weeks after a similar find at a Kamloops location.

Residential schools are places Indigenous children were taken after being forcibly ripped from their homes by Canadian governments. That alone is damaging enough. But now we are confronted with the fact thousands of children never returned home.

This was genocide. It meets the definition we apply to similar events elsewhere, and we have to start using that term.

This is not a problem of the past. This did not happen long ago. The Saskatchewan residential school in question only closed in 1996.

The victims of these schools live with us today. They live with painful memories, and they pass on that trauma to their own children and grandchildren.

We don’t need to forget about the things we like about Canada. But we need to make Canada a better place for everyone. That starts with reconciliation for aboriginal people.

One way you can help is by wearing orange today. Orange shirts have become the symbol of support for the survivors of residential schools. This simple act tells survivors that we see them and are trying to understand their struggle.

This Canada Day, let’s commit to the hard work needed to rebuild the Indigenous communities and lives shattered by residential schools. Let’s make Canada the country we want it to be, the country it should be, for all people living here.